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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a news writer for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and interned at The L Magazine. At New York University she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, The Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

Eight LGBT rights protesters were arrested after staging a sit-in outside House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office on Capitol Hill Thursday, according to the Huffington Post.

Members of GetEQUAL, the same group that Michelle Obama's heckler at a recent fundraiser identified with, refused to leave the lobby outside Boehner's office after speaking with an aide. The group had asked for a meeting with either the Speaker or his staff to discuss the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar federal contractors from discriminating based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

“It’s clear that Speaker Boehner has absolutely zero intention of supporting or moving forward the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Sean Watkins, a gay Iraq War veteran who resides in Boehner's district, said in a statement published in the Dallas Voice.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowed a small challenge to National Security Agency surveillance programs to move forward Wednesday, according to the Atlantic Wire -- but it's a motion that predated the recent leak of information on such programs. 

The Atlantic Wire first reported that the Electronic Frontier Foundation had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the FISC's ruling on an electronic surveillance program's violation of the Fourth Amendment. The ruling was revealed in a July 2012 letter between the director of national intelligence and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The Department of Justice had previously blocked the EFF's FOIA request on the grounds that the FISC ruling was confidential, and the EFF subsequently sued for appeal. The FISC broke with the DOJ Wednesday by deciding that the court's own rules did not prohibit disclosure of the ruling.

"The victory today was a modest one," the EFF wrote Wednesday in a statement on its website. "The Court didn't order disclosure of its opinion; it just made clear, as EFF had argued, that the FISC's own rules don't serve as an obstacle to disclosure of the opinion. The FISC also clarified that the executive branch cannot rely on the judiciary to hide its surveillance: the only thing obstructing the opinion from the public's review is the executive branch's own claims that it can hide its unconstitutional action behind a veil of classification."

This post has been updated.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said Thursday that the National Security Agency's phone record collection and PRISM surveillance programs operated in full compliance with the law and are instrumental in combating terror threats -- so instrumental that had they existed in 2001, they may have prevented the September 11 terror attacks.

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Mueller urged that cyber threats "may well eclipse the terror threat in years to come." He acknowledged the public's expectation that the intelligence community protects its privacy interests, saying that the phone record collection program only applies to metadata and that the FBI has "no authority to get content."

"The legality has been assured by the Department of Justice," Mueller said. "The FISA court has ruled on these two programs."

Mueller further argued that had the phone metadata collection program existed in 2001, the agency may have been able to trace hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar's web of contacts and possibly impede the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. His statement echoed NSA Director Army Gen. Keith Alexander's remarks before a Senate committtee on Wednesday, asserting that metadata could have tracked the hijack teams.

Senate hopeful Gabriel Gomez denies a record of helping create jobs in China during his years in private equity, the Boston Globe reported Thusday.

In its review of Gomez's tenure at the private equity firm Advent International, which the candidate has been vaguely referencing on the campaign trail as evidence of his business acumen, the Globe found that Gomez was involved in steering a company called Synventive Molding Solutions that supplies auto makers with machinery to mold parts. According to the Globe's investigation, Synventive expanded its operations in China during the recession and pursued large tax breaks in that country even as it laid off employees in the U.S.

A former Synventive employee told the Globe: "It was a good company, except things changed a lot over the years." He added “A lot of business went to China.”

"There weren't jobs moved overseas," Gomez challenged in an interview with the Globe, a position an Advent spokesman also echoed. "The biggest producers in the automotive industry back then were over in Asia."

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), the self-proclaimed "most conservative Congressman in Texas," announced Thursday via Twitter that he's giving away a free AR-15 rifle through his website.

The freshman congressman's reelection website boasted: "Enter the drawing to win a FREE Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, almost impossible to find in stores and the number one firearm on the gun banners' wish list!"

A Bushmaster AR-15 was the same type of rifle shooter Adam Lanza used in December's elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Some gun control advocates have called for including the semi-automatic gun in proposed bans on assault rilfes.

Former Obama spokesmen Robert Gibbs and Ben Labolt are launching a new communications firm, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, and Labolt, the national press secretary for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, will join with Labolt's deputy Adam Fetcher to form The Incite Agency under the umbrella of New Partners, a full-service consulting firm.

Federal investigators had been looking for Edward Snowden several days before information about National Security Agency surveillance programs he leaked to The Guardian and The Washington Post was published, Reuters reported.

Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Snowden was only on the job with contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for four weeks before taking time off. When the company couldn't get in touch with Snowden after a long period of time, the sources said, it notified intelligence officials because of Snowden's high-level security clearance.

The sources told Reuters that although government agents had been unable to locate Snowden, they did not know that he leaked the information in the newspaper reports until he revealed himself as the source on Sunday.

The Reuters report came after an account published in The Daily Beast on Monday, in which intelligence sources said that Snowden was immediately identified as the leading suspect when news of the NSA's PRISM surveillance program broke.

This post has been updated.

A complaint against Judge Edith Jones of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was transferred Wednesday to an appeals court in Washington, D.C., the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

A coalition group of civil rights organizations filed the complaint accusing Jones of racial bias based on a speech she made at the University of Pennsylvania in February. The only indication that the complaint had been transferred was a notice posted on the 5th Circuit Court's website.

The chief judge on the 5th Circuit, Carl Stewart, was in charge of handling the complaint; according to the Times-Picayune, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts allowed Stewart to invoke a judicial rule allowing transfers of complaints "in exceptional circumstances" and chose the D.C. Circuit's Judicial Council to continue handling Jone's case. 

Jones has yet to comment publicly on the allegations against her.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) Wednesday signed on to Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI) proposal stripping a measure from the Defense Authorization Act that would remove decisions in sexual assault cases from the military chain of command, but warned the armed forces that this wouldn't be the final hearing on the issue.

"I know there will be those that think Sen. Gillibrand and I don't agree" on military assault, McCaskill said in an Armed Services Committee hearing. "But we are not gonna give up focusing on this problem. One word of advice to the military: don't think this is over once this defense authorization bill becomes law. Because we've just begun. We've just begun to hold your feet to the fire."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) on Wednesday introduced his measure to replace Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) proposal removing sexual assault cases from the military chain of command with a provision that would allow senior commanders to review cases.

Levin argued in an Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Authorization Act that removing the prosecution of sexual assault cases from the chain of command would actually hinder prosecution of such cases.

"Removing prosecution decisions from the chain of command would likely weaken our response to sexual assault by taking the responsibility for prosecution away from military commanders - who are actually more likely to prosecute - and instead transferring the responsibility to military lawyers - who are less likely to do so," Levin said. "We learned last week that military commanders have often prosecuted sexual assault cases even when civilian authorities declined to do so.  We also learned that military commanders have insisted on prosecuting sexual assault cases even when the military lawyers recommended against proceeding."

Levin added that to truly change the culture of sexual assault in the armed forces--"a culture that has taken inadequate steps to address the situation"--commanders must be allowed to serve discipline in such cases.

"It is harder to hold someone accountable for failure to act if you reduce their power to act," he said.

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